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Inside Teaching : October 2010
Inside Teaching | October 2010 CURRICULUM & ASSESSMENT 32 Development (DEECD) has consistently been urging all schools to collect and maintain accessible databases with which to make informed decisions about curriculum, courses and individual students. In my work with teachers and other schools, though, I’ve been surprised by some inconsistent and ad hoc approaches to assessment data itself. Even if the school leadership has not established comprehensive arrangements for the collection, sharing and use of assessment data, individual teachers can and should maintain coherent records. Better still, teams of teachers working with the same group of students can easily share their data in order to ‘triangulate’ their assessments and so make better judgements. The idea of triangulation comes from a measurement analogy – you can’t tell how big or how far away an object is unless you reference it from at least two different survey points. Without triangulation it’s like trying to guess how high something is with one eye closed. We can extend this analogy to all forms of student assessment, for example the 2008 NAPLAN tests of my Year 9 students. A student – let’s call him Bobby – scored 4.76 equivalent VELS level on the writing test, but 5.46 on the spelling test and 5.54 on the grammar test. An examination of his mid-year writing class sample indicated a VELS of 5.75. By looking at all these markers together – several vantage points focused on the same student – we can make a balanced assessment of around 5.50: his low NAPLAN test score was clearly flawed in some way; the class item was possibly a one-off ‘gem.’ In order to make these balanced or triangulated judgements, though, the teacher must have a collection of valid data. At my school we have several data collections, using either Excel spreadsheets on staff computers, or Googledocs up in ‘the cloud.’ The simplest version, for English writing, works like this: • all assessed work is rated by VELS criteria, not by percentages or arbitrary scores • a range of work samples – essays, notes, drafts, self- Figure 3: Diagnostic analysis of student performance*